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  USS Franklin CV-13 (CVA-13 /CVS-13 / AVT-8)
USN
Essex-class aircraft carrier

27,100 Tons (standard)
820' x 93' x 28' 5" (as built)
4 x Twin 5" guns
4 x Single 5" guns
8 x Quad 40mm
46 x 20mm AA guns
90–100 aircraft

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USN October 14, 1943

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USN February 21, 1944

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USN August 1944

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USN October 24, 1944

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USN October 30, 1944

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USN January 1945

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USN March 19, 1945

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USN April 28, 1945

Ship History
Nicknamed "Big Ben". Laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding on December 7, 1942. Launched October 14, 1943 and comissioned January 31, 1944. Franklin received four battle stars for her World War II service.

Wartime History
Franklin steamed south to Trinidad for a shakedown cruise. Departed with Task Group 27.7 (TG 27.7) for San Diego, to engage in intensive training exercises preliminary to combat duty. In June, she steamed via Pearl Harbor for Eniwetok and joined TG 58.2.

On the last day of June 1944, departed to participate in a strikes on the Bonin Islands in support of the assault on the Marianas Islands. On 4 July 4, 1944, strikes were launched against Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, and Haha Jima with her planes attacking land targets and sinking a large cargo vessel in the harbor and setting three smaller ships on fire.

On July 6, Franklin began strikes on Guam and Rota as part of the preparations for the assault on Guam, and those strikes continued until the 21st when she lent direct support to enable safe landing of the first assault waves.

Replenished for two days at Saipan, then joined in Task Force 58 (TF 58) for photographic reconnaissance and air strikes against Palau. Her planes effected their mission on the 25th and 26th, exacting a heavy toll in enemy planes, ships, and ground installations. Franklin departed on July 28 and returned for Saipan, and the following day she was shifted to TG 58.1.

Although high seas prevented taking on a needed load of bombs and rockets, Franklin steamed for another raid against the Bonins. On August 4, bode well, her fighters attacked Chichi Jima and her dive bombers and torpedo planes against a ship convoy north of Ototo Jima were very effective against the radio stations, seaplane base, airstrips, and ships.

Afterwards, steamed to Eniwetok for a period of upkeep and recreation from August 9-28, then departed with USS Enterprise, USS Belleau Wood and USS San Jacinto for neutralization and diversionary attacks against the Bonins. From August 31 to September 2, strikes from Franklin targeted ground targets, sank two cargo ships, bagged numerous enemy planes in flight, and accomplished photographic survey.

On September 4, Franklin took on supplies at Saipan, and then she steamed with TG 38.1 for an attacks against Yap during September 3-8. Lost is F6F Hellcat 58140 pilot rescued. Next, provided air cover for the invasion of Peleliu on September 15. The Task Group took on supplies at Manus during September 21 to 25.

Franklin was selected as flagship of TG 38.4, returned to the Peleliu and launched daily patrols and night fighters. On October 9, she rendezvoused with carrier groups cooperating in air strikes in support of the coming landing on Leyte. At twilight on the 13th, the task group came under attack by four bombers, and Franklin twice was narrowly missed by torpedoes. An enemy plane, crashed on Franklin's deck abaft the aircraft carrier's island, and it slid across the deck and off the deck into the water on her starboard beam.

Leyte
Early on the 14th, a fighter sweep was made against Aparri, Luzon, following which she steamed to the east of Luzon to neutralize installations to the east prior to invasion landings on Leyte. On the 15th, Franklin was attacked by three enemy planes, one of which scored with a bomb that hit the after outboard corner of the deck edge elevator, killing three men and wounding 22. The carrier's aircraft hit Manila Bay on 19 October when her planes sank and damaged many ships and boats, destroyed a floating dry dock, and shot down 11 Japanese aircraft.

During the initial landings on Leyte on October 20, the aircraft of Franklin hit surrounding airstrips and launched search patrols in anticipation of the approach of a reported enemy attack force. On the morning of 24 October, in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, her planes formed part of the waves that attacked the Japanese First Raiding Force (under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita), in so doing helping to sink Musashi south of Luzon, damage Fusō and Yamashiro, and sink Wakaba. As further enemy threats seemed to materialize in another quarter, Franklin - with TGs 38.4, 38.3, and 38.2 - sped to intercept the advancing Japanese carrier force and attack at dawn. The distant carrier force was actually a sacrificial feint, as by that time the Japanese were almost out of serviceable airplanes and, even more importantly, very short on trained pilots, but the admiral in charge, William Halsey, took the bait and steamed furiously off after them without communicating his intentions clearly, leading to the infamous the world wonders communications debacle. Franklin's strike groups combined with those from the other carriers on 25 October in the Battle off Cape Engaño to damage Chiyoda (she would be sunk by American cruiser gunfire subsequently) and sink Zuihō.

Retiring in her task group to refuel, she returned to the Leyte action on 27 October, her planes concentrating on a heavy cruiser and two destroyers south of Mindoro.

Kamikaze Attack
On October 30, 1944 Franklin was underway about 1,000 miles off Samar when Japanese enemy bombers appeared and three focused on Franklin, the first plummeting off her starboard side, the second hitting the flight deck and crashing through to the gallery deck, showering destruction, killing 56 men and wounding 60; the third discharging another near miss by Franklin, before diving into the flight deck of Belleau Wood CVL-24.

Repairs
Damaged, both carriers limped to Ulithi Atoll for temporary repairs, and then Franklin proceeded to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, arriving on November 28 for further repairs of her battle damage. On November 7, Captain Shoemaker was relieved by Captain Leslie E. Gehres as the carrier's commanding officer.

Patrolling of Japan
Repaired, Franklin departed from Bremerton on 2 February 1945, and after training exercises and pilot qualification operations, she joined the TG 58.2 for strikes on the Japanese homeland in support of the assault on Okinawa. On 15 March, she rendezvoused with TF 58 units, and 3 days later launched sweeps and strikes against Kagoshima and Izumi on southern Kyūshū.

Damaged by Bombs
Before dawn on March 19, 1945, Franklin, which had maneuvered to within 50 mi of the Japanese mainland, closer than had any other U.S. carrier during the war, launched a fighter sweep against Honshū and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor. Suddenly, a single aircraft possibly a Judy, Grace or Val made a low level run on the ship to drop two semi-armor-piercing bombs. One bomb struck the flight deck centerline, penetrating to the hangar deck, and igniting fires through the second and third decks, and knocking out the Combat Information Center and airplot. The second hit aft, tearing through two decks.

At the time she was struck, Franklin had 31 armed and fueled aircraft warming up on her flight deck. The hangar deck contained 22 additional planes, of which 16 were fueled and five were armed. The forward gasoline system had been secured, but the aft system was operating. The explosion on the hangar deck ignited the fuel tanks on the aircraft, and gasoline vapor explosion devastated the deck. Only two crewmen survived the fire on the hangar deck. The explosion also jumbled aircraft together on the flight deck above, causing further fires and explosions, including the detonation of 12 Tiny Tim rockets. Three-quarter inch armor had been installed on the hangar deck when last repaired, and this contained the explosion and fire and prevented spread of the fire below.

Franklin lay dead in the water, took a 13° starboard list, lost all radio communications, and broiled under the heat from enveloping fires. Many of the crew were blown overboard, driven off by fire, killed or wounded, but the hundreds of officers and enlisted who voluntarily remained saved their ship. The casualties totaled 724 killed and 265 wounded, and would have far exceeded this number, but for the work of many survivors. Among these were the Medal of Honor recipients Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan, the warship's chaplain, who administered the last rites, organized and directed firefighting and rescue parties, and led men below to wet down magazines that threatened to explode; and also Lieutenant JG Donald A. Gary, who discovered 300 men trapped in a blackened mess compartment and, finding an exit, returned repeatedly to lead groups to safety. Gary later organized and led fire-fighting parties to battle fires on the hangar deck and entered the No. 3 fire room to raise steam in one boiler. The Santa Fe rescued crewmen from the sea and approached Franklin to take off the numerous wounded and nonessential personnel. Franklin had suffered the most severe damage experienced by any U.S. fleet carrier that survived World War II.

Repair
Towed by the heavy cruiser Pittsburgh until she was able to raise enough steam to reach a speed of 14 kts (26 km/h), and then she proceed to Ulithi Atoll under her own power for emergency repairs. Next, she steamed to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where repairs permitted her to steam under her own power all the way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, via the Panama Canal, arriving April 28, 1945.

Upon Franklin's arrival, a long-brewing controversy over the ship's crew's conduct during her struggles finally came to a head. Captain Gehres had accused many of those who had left the ship on 19 March 1945 of desertion, even those who had jumped into the water to escape a likely death by fire, or had been led to believe that "abandon ship" had been ordered. While en route from Ulithi Atoll to Hawaii, Gehres had proclaimed 704 members of the crew to be members of the "Big Ben 704 Club" for having stayed with the heavily-damaged warship, but investigators in New York discovered that only about 400 were actually onboard Franklin continuously. The others had been brought back on board either before and during the stop at Ulithi. All of the charges against the men of her crew were quietly dropped.

Despite severe damage, Franklin was eventually successfully restored to good condition. She steamed to New York because all of the repair shipyards on the West Coast were heavily overloaded with warships damaged by kamikazes.

Postwar
Following the end of the war, Franklin was opened to the public for Navy Day celebrations. On February 17, 1947, she was placed out of commission at Bayonne, New Jersey.

While Franklin lay mothballed at Bayonne, redesignated as an attack aircraft carrier CVA-13 on 1 October 1952, an antisubmarine warfare support carrier CVS-13 on 8 August 1953 and, ultimately, as an aircraft transport AVT-8 on 15 May 1959. In the end, this warship never went to sea again, and she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 October 1964. She and Bunker Hill - which also had sustained severe damage from aerial attack - were the only carriers in their class that never saw any active-duty postwar service, though their wartime damage had been successfully repaired.

Scrapping
Although the Navy initially sold Franklin to the Peck Iron and Metal Company of Portsmouth, Virginia, they reclaimed her due to an urgent Bureau of Ships requirement for the use of her four steam turbines. Ultimately, however, this warship was sold for scrapping to the Portsmouth Salvage Company of Chesapeake, Virginia on 27 July 1966. She departed naval custody under tow by Red Star Towing Company on the evening of 1 August 1966.

References
USS Franklin Association
Saga of the Franklin, wartime documentary
Task Force (1949) includes film footage of the actual attack on USS Franklin
Navysource - USS Franklin Air Attack, March 19, 1945
World War II "USS Franklin: Struck by a Japanese Dive Bomber During World War II" by David H. Lippman, March 1995

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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